Rathlin Patrick Penny was my grandfather.
He was a conner, sharpy, and trickster.
An all-round Divel – as my Grandma Pen used to call him in an Irish brogue – which is not a shoe, but a tone of voice.
Before I was born to their last daughter – a case of immaculate deception – and he died most tragically in the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 – Lucky Penny had a dog; his boon companion, drinking partner and notoriously black-hearted.
This dog was a Boston Terrier – with emphasis on terror – whose name was StepLively.
StepLively had a massive under-bite, which gave him a ghoulish countenance.
Also made it easier for him to get a grip on whatever he fancied to set his teeth into.
He had a fondness for single malt Irish Whiskey – sucking up from Old Da’s own glass – standing on the bar, snarling at all usurpers of Lucky’s attention.
Whenever Lucky went in for thievery, Steppers was a handy assistant; climbing through windows to open a latch, chasing away guard dogs several times bigger than himself, carrying tiny sacks of booty – hanging off his lower lip – to safety.
StepLively had a collar with bells on it.
Old Da could hear his dog make a crooked way through darkened premises of burglary.
So he nicknamed him Jowly Jingler – that being a criminal moniker.
Lucky often sang this song, while in his cups, about his dog –
He’s no mingler
Prefers a singler
With his Man.
What a tingler
Bite off your fingler
If he can.
StepLively was vicious.
My Grandma Pen was afraid of him, and she weren’t skeerd of Satan.
Wouldn’t allow that dog in the bedroom.
Lively and Lucky slept together on the horsehair couch for the last 12 years of the marriage.
When Lucky got into a barney – which was fairly frequent – Steppers threw himself on his masters side.
He attacked ankles, shins, calves, and after Old Da had knocked his opponent flat – testicles.
He took such relish in his work that, it was said, he carried around pieces of his victims for days after – shaking their remnants furiously while growling triumphant.
A family rumor persisted that Lucky Penny had a photograph taken of he and his pal.
Lucky in a bowler, starch collar and spats.
The dog next to him on a bar stool dressed to match.
A keepsake long lost.
Old Da never sat for a snap with his wife – as Grandma Pen was fuglier than I am.
After many boisterous years together, the partnership was ripped apart by a pack of feral mongrels on a dirty backstreet in the Big City.
Caught unawares, StepLively fought furiously, but was overwhelmed.
They ate him down to the gizzard.
He vanished from the Planet.
Legend has it his evil spirit lived on in the beasts who consumed him.
He being truly too obstinate and implacable to cease to exist.
His departure gave Rathlin Patrick Penny an excuse to go on a binge that lasted the better part of three months.
He grieved inconsolable.
For never was a friend so true, loyal and incapable of grassing* as his dear dog – StepLively.
Old Da never quite recovered, and his mates credited this blow to his premature passing.
Biggest mistake Lucky Penny every made was to die before Prohibition kicked in.
He’d have cleaned up.
*to grass – betray a confidence, especially to the coppers.
artwork by codifyer